5 years ago
Thursday, February 3, 2011
This is a photo, believe it or not, of an epiphany. We write our little tea blogs and we hang out with tea people and we get on a first-name basis at a shop or two or ten. Like any niche, it's easy to forget this isn't really a treehouse, a club, a benefit exclusive to those of us with even a smidge of knowledge, feigned or hard-earned. But here I was, in a really nice tea shop in, of all places, Des Moines. This guy — in the sweatshirt for his drywall business, complete with Christian fish logo — flips through the menu with his wife and talks brewing temperatures with the gal behind the counter. I expected only Lipton bags during my first of many future visits to this town (relocated relatives), certainly not a great shop with what looks to be finely sourced teas sought after by burly Iowans in caulk-covered boots. I stood there for a moment and realized just how widely tea must be getting around, that the marketing articles aren't just being optimistic. They've even opened a Teavana or two in my Oklahoma home town. It made me really happy, and really excited.
The shop, Gong Fu Tea, has been in Des Moines' East Village neighborhood for more than six years, no less. A few minimalist tables up front, a nice long service counter in the middle, and some teaware and tasting tables in the back where customers can schedule gaiwan and gongfu services. This display of tea jars runs along the wall ...
The owners, Mike Feller and Rusty Bishop, have sourced some good teas, available online (they also have a monthly tea club). I left with several, including a pretty marvelous hojicha — golden-brown and toasty and awesome with some noodles and peanut sauce earlier this week. (Feller contributed comments to this story in a recent Des Moines Register.)
Great tea is almost everywhere! Long live the cha!